Notre Dame was in search of a lot answers Saturday Night after its loss to Michigan, but instead, the Irish have even more questions after its 31-24 victory over Purdue.
The Irish have been plagued by slow starts in this young season, and this game was no different. In the first 4 offensive drives, Notre Dame ran 22 plays for 57 yards and ZERO points.
The defense looked equally inept early in the game as Purdue moved the ball with screens, short yardage running, and some 3rd down magic.
Both units eventually settled down, but the damage was already done and the game was a dogfight that we didn't see coming.
After going down 10-0, Notre Dame finally got on the board with a Kyle Brindza field goal, and despite all of the poor play, Notre Dame went into the half only down a touchdown. Things looked much better when the Irish took the opening kickoff of the second half and marched 75 yards on 10 plays for a Cam McDaniel run for a touchdown.
With the game now tied up at 10 a piece, the Irish special teams allowed a 39 yard kick return by the Boilers, and that momentum helped Purdue cap a 54 yard drive with an 18 yard touchdown from Henry to BJ Knauf.
Both Notre Dame and Purdue exchanged a 3 and out drive before the game took a dramatic change in Notre Dame's favor.
Notre Dame drove 66 yards on 11 plays to score on a 9 yard pass from Rees to Daniels. After forcing the Boilers to punt on the next possession, Tommy Rees showed some arm strength, while DaVaris Daniels displayed both power and agility with a 82 yard touchdown pass on the first play of the series. Daniels stayed in bounds while fighting off the tackle of Ricardo Allen for what was the best highlight of the night, and the play that gave the Irish the lead, 24-17.
On the very next series for Purdue, Rob Henry threw an interception to Bennet Jackson that Jackson returns for a touchdown.
All of a sudden the Irish are up 31-17 after trailing 10-0 early in the game.
Notre Dame eventually closes the game out with ball control running, clock management, and a physicality not seen in the previous 3 quarters to win the game 31-24.
This was a game that Notre Dame was favored by 3 touchdowns to win. Their play in no way suggested that kind of a victory was even possible. There is so much blame to be passed around for both coaches and players that it's useless to point all of them out here.
There is still no real identity on offense, and the defense still struggles to make tackles, get home with the blitz, and generally looks slow.
Tommy Rees is the scapegoat that a lot of people were looking for, but there were a ton of drops and the offensive line got overpowered pass blocking and run blocking. Tommy Rees was not the problem last night with another 300 yard performance.There are other questions- more questions than last week, and coming up with at least some of the answers is this teams job as it welcomes Michigan State to Notre Dame Stadium next.
The process of building this program never seems to get near the level that we want and demand as Irish fans, but the process continues. What this team does next may very well determine what it does for the rest of the season.